The Brown Hooded Owlet Moth is a fascinating nocturnal creature with unique features and behaviors.
Native to North America, these moths are known for their distinct coloration and wing pattern.
Their forewings display a mix of gray-brown, red-brown, or light yellow-brown hues with a design of smooth lines and spots, which can vary depending on their location.
They have a forewing length of 15 to 20 millimeters, making them quite easy to spot when they’re drawn towards lights or sugar baits.
As nocturnal insects, these moths play a vital role in pollination and ecosystem balance.
They are primarily active during the night, using their antennae to navigate and locate sources of food.
Additionally, the Brown Hooded Owlet Moth has a unique life cycle involving four developmental stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
This fascinating moth is not only a captivating species to observe but also a reminder of the important roles insects play in our environment.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Arthropoda
- Class: Insecta
- Order: Lepidoptera
- Family: Noctuidae
- Genus: Cucullia
- Species: C. convexipennis
The Brown Hooded Owlet moth is scientifically known as Cucullia convexipennis. It was first described by Augustus Radcliffe Grote and Coleman Townsend Robinson.
This moth species belongs to the Noctuidae family, which is a part of the Lepidoptera order in the Insecta class. The Brown Hooded Owlet is a member of the genus Cucullia.
Characteristics of the Brown Hooded Owlet moth:
- Gray-brown, red-brown, or light yellow-brown forewings
- Smooth lines and spots on wings
- Two times as long as wide wings
In comparison to other moths, such as the Spongy Moth, the Brown Hooded Owlet has a more significant variability in coloration and a smaller wingspan.
The Spongy Moth has a wingspan of 1-1/2 to 2 inches, while the Brown Hooded Owlet has a wingspan of 15 to 20 millimeters.
|Feature||Brown Hooded Owlet||Spongy Moth|
|Wingspan||15 to 20 mm||1-1/2 to 2 inches|
|Coloration||Variable||Male: brown with darker brown pattern; Female: nearly white with dark saw-toothed pattern|
|Flight Capability||Both male and female can fly||Only male can fly; female lacks flight capability|
The adult Brown Hooded Owlet Moth (Cucullia convexipennis) is characterized by a mohawk-like appearance.
The moth has long, whitish hairs with brown tips all over its head. This “hood” resembles a mohawk hairstyle.
The moth is a light brown color, but the outermost, lower edges of the forewings darken.
When the wings are open, the color is pale brown, but it gradually shifts to a darker tone near the edge.
When the wings are closed, the brown borders remain sharply visible.
The moth has a wingspan of 40–50 mm and the length of the forewings is 15–20 mm.
The Brown Hooded Owlet Moth caterpillar is also commonly referred to as the “Brown-bordered Cucullia.”
Unlike the adult moth, the caterpillar has quite a colorful appearance.
Brown Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar
Its most prominent feature is the deep orange line that runs down the length of its body.
Combined with yellow and black markings, the caterpillar’s overall appearance is striking and often compared to a “Calico Paint.”
- Color: Colorful with deep orange line
- Common Name: Brown-bordered Cucullia, Calico Paint caterpillar
Life Cycle and Behavior
The Brown Hooded Owlet Moth’s life cycle begins with the female laying small batches of eggs on the underside of leaves.
Their preferred host plants include:
The eggs will hatch into caterpillars within approximately one to two weeks, depending on environmental factors and temperature.
Once hatched, the larval stage, also known as caterpillars or Brown Hooded Owlet caterpillars, begins. They have unique features like:
- Colorful appearance
- Orange line through the middle
The aterpillars feed on the leaves of their host plants for several weeks.
Eventually, they will enter the pupal stage, forming a cocoon within which they will metamorphose into adult moths.
Adult Brown Hooded Owlet Moths have a rather short lifespan. Key characteristics of this stage include:
- Dark brown-gray body
- White-bordered forewings
- Approximately 15-20 mm in length
As nocturnal creatures, Night-flying Brown Hooded Owlet Moths are attracted to lights and are active during the warmer months of the year.
Mating, egg-laying, and the end of their life cycle occur during this season.
The moths’ primary activity during their brief adult life consists of reproducing and seeking out their favorite host plants to lay their eggs.
Host Plants and Feeding
The Brown Hooded Owlet Moth primarily feeds on host plants such as goldenrod and asters. These wildflowers are essential for the moth’s larval development.
- Goldenrod: A popular choice for the Brown Hooded Owlet Moth, as it provides ample foliage for the larvae to consume.
- Asters: Another favored host plant, offering excellent nutrition for the developing larvae.
The Brown Hooded Owlet Moth is selective regarding its host plants.
However, they may occasionally feed on other wildflowers that are found within their habitat.
Habitat and Distribution
The Brown Hooded Owlet Moth, known for its distinct appearance, has a distribution stretching across North America.
It can be found in the United States and Canada, inhabiting a wide range of habitats, such as:
The moth thrives in these diverse environments, where it feeds on a variety of host plants. Some examples of these plants include:
- Goldenrod (Solidago species)
- Asters (Aster species)
- Fleabane (Erigeron species)
In different regions, the Brown Hooded Owlet Moth may have specific habitat preferences, which could influence its local distribution.
However, overall, the moth is quite adaptable and capable of living in various environments throughout its range in North America.
Threats and Predators
The Brown Hooded Owlet Moth faces various threats in its environment. Some key factors are:
- Predators: Natural predators of this moth species include birds, bats, and spiders.
- Parasites: Parasitic wasps and tachinid flies can attack the caterpillars, laying eggs inside them.
- Environmental factors: Harsh weather conditions, such as extreme temperatures and heavy rain, can directly affect their survival rate.
Brown Hooded Owlet Moths maintain a balance within their ecosystem through their role as prey for many predators.
The Brown Hooded Owlet Moth, scientifically termed as Cucullia convexipennis, is a nocturnal marvel native to North America.
With its distinctive brown hues and unique wing patterns, it stands out in the moth world.
As a member of the Noctuidae family, it plays a crucial role in pollination, ensuring ecological balance.
Its life cycle, spanning from egg to adult, is a testament to nature’s wonders.
Despite facing threats from predators and environmental factors, this moth continues to thrive, showcasing its resilience.
Delving into its world not only offers insights into its existence but also underscores the significance of every creature in our ecosystem.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about the brown hooded owlet moth. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Owlet Moth from South Africa
Giant moth identification
Location: Gauteng, South Africa
February 24, 2011 3:14 am
We often get these guys fluttering about at night, this is the first pic I’ve gotten of one of them sitting still in good light.
The wingspan is usually about 10cm (4 inches)
You have some species of Owlet Moth. There are many Australian species that are also found in South Africa and some genera are represented by similar looking species in the two locations.
This looks like a Cream-striped Owl, Cyligramma latona (Noctuidae: Catocalinae). It is apparently widespread and common in Subsaharan Africa, as well as Egypt, and the larvae feed on Acacia. Regards. Karl.
Letter 2 – What’s That Arizona Caterpillar??? Scribbled Sallow Caterpillar
Second Unknown Caterpillar in AZ
Location: Tucson, AZ
April 17, 2011 10:13 pm
Hi there, My daughter found two of what appear to be the same caterpillars as your reader in Gilbert, AZ. We found them on a snapdragon vine in our back yard in Tucson. I have done exhaustive research and have been unable to identify the caterpillar.
Just thought you would like another example of the same critter in the same general geographic area.
PS We are keeping them in a quart mason jar with fresh clippings of the plant on which we found them, and hope to observe them through their metamorphosis. Perhaps then we will be able to identify them.
Signature: Alicia & Sadie
We are no closer than our original guess that it might be a member of the genus Cucullia, the Hooded Owlet Moths, though we couldn’t find any examples on BugGuide that had those markings.
Also the heads on the Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillars were not pink like the head on the Gilbert, Arizona Caterpillar.
Your caterpillar, on the other hand, looks very much like this Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar in the genus Cucullia that is posted to BugGuide. Though we may be wrong, we believe we may have your identification correct.
Excellent! I too am seeing cross-eyed after searching in every Arizona caterpillar database I could find online, as well as several for northern Mexico. Thanks so much for being such an awesome resource.
All the best,
Alicia in Tucson
Correction: December 5, 2016
WE received a comment indicating this might be in the genus Sympistis, and it sure does look like the Scribbled Sallow Caterpillar posted to BugGuide.
Letter 3 – Owlet Moth Caterpillar from Singapore: Asota plana
Subject: Yellow-Brown Striped, Red Thorax, Black Head Caterpillar
February 3, 2013 4:48 am
Hi, I spotted this caterpillar at a concrete sheltered walkway near a field. Could you help me identify what type of bug does this caterpillar evolve into?
Signature: Nicholas Ho
We took a somewhat circuitous route, but we believe we have correctly identified your Owlet Moth Caterpillar. We found a matching photo of your caterpillar on the Photography & Me: Caterpillars: The Loop and Hairy blog, but alas, it was not identified.
Next we found a photo on Lazy Lizard’s Tales: Of moths and social media, and thanks to the bloggers obsessions with identifying it, we found a scientific name supplied by Siyang: Asota plana.
This information was provided: “The caterpillar of the moth, Asota plana, eats the leaves of this and other fig species (W. F. Ang, pers. comm; Figs. 19, 20). Although trees may lose most of their foliage from one such attack, they usually recover once the caterpillars pupate and emerge as adults to attack other trees.”
Thanks for the awesome identification reply! This is indeed the same
type of caterpillars that I have spotted. I spent quite a bit of
effort for a few days to identify these caterpillars, but to no avail.
That’s when my friend suggested I try submitting an identification
request to your website.
Do let me know if you would like to have more
pictures of these caterpillars for displaying on your website. I have
around 5-8 of them taken with my mobile phone camera.
Once again, thanks!
Any photos of the caterpillars feeding on the food plants would be great. If you don’t have that, send your best few and we will add to the posting.
Apologies for the delay in reply.
Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to catch them on the leaves.
I have attached all that I captured on that day. Hope you are able to find more nicer shots to add to your site.
Have a happy Lunar New Year~ 😉
Letter 4 – Unknown Owlet Moth from Australia is Granny’s Cloak
large moth in Australia
Hi there, I have had lots of large moths hiding in my shed that look like the Black Witch moth (although it looks like these do not occur in Australia), or perhaps the owlet moth.
During the day they cluster in dark crevices but at night they come out and unlike other moths, they don’t go directly to light but prefer to land in dim areas near the light. They are at least 10 – 15cm wide.
New South Wales, Australia
We have been trying unsuccessfully to correctly identify your Owlet Moth in the superfamily Noctuoidea. We are posting the image in the hopes that one of our readers can provide the species.
The moth is Granny’s Cloak, Speiredonia spectans. It is often found in shady places, including inside houses and sheds. Kind Regards,
Great, i have found some more info about their habits, at < http://staff.it.uts.edu.au/~don/larvae/cato/spectan.html > if you are interested. Thanks
Letter 5 – Brown Hooded Owlet Caterpillar
I live in Colorado and spotted this caterpillar on a Patterson Aster (Machaeranthera pattersonii) and have been unable to identify it? Could you help?
We would love to help. This is a Brown Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar, Cucullia convexipennis. We do have one photo on one of our caterpillar pages, but the coloration is a slight variation. They feed on asters as well as goldenrod.
Letter 6 – Brown Hooded Owlet Caterpillar and Unicorn Caterpillar
Good morning, Daniel.
I think that I may have found the name of that caterpillar recently found munching on goldenrod leaves.. A friend of mine suggests that it is a “Brown-Hooded Owlet” caterpillar. What do you think? Here’s a picture of a unicorn caterpillar that you may find of interest.
|Brown Hooded Owlet Caterpillar||Unicorn Caterpillar|
Hi again Colin,
We checked with BugGuide and agree with your nicely researched identification of the Brown Hooded Owlet Moth, Cucullia convexipennis. Your other caterpillar is one of the Prominent Moths, but we never heard the common name Unicorn Caterpillar. Ater checking Caterpillars of the Eastern Forests, we see you have correctly identified Schizura unicornis.
Letter 7 – Brown Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar
Took this photo in Sept., 2004, just South East of Wooster, Ohio. I have spent more than three years trying to indentify this caterpillar with no luck. Can you help me???
Richard (Dick) Pratt
Now that you know this is a Brown Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar, Cucullia convexipennis, you can search BugGuide and other internet sites for information on this attractive caterpillar.
Letter 8 – Brown Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar
n ncaterpillar question
I found the prettiest caterpillar i’ve ever seen on our campground in Maine & was wondering if you could give me a hand identifying it. It’s large & smooth with a single orange stripe running down it’s back, yellow stripes on it’s sides, & red stripes way down by it’s legs.
I thought i would have no problem identifing it since it’s so bright & doesn’t have spikes or fuzz, but i’ve had no luck so far. Any idea what he could be? Thanks,
The caterpillar of the Brown Hooded Owlet Moth, Cucullia convexipennis, is a much comlier creature than the relatively nondescript brown moth it eventually metamorphoses into.
Letter 9 – Brown Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar
Thanks for your help in identifying the Cimbex Sawfly Larvae last year, this is my question for this year. Thanks
Caesar Creek Lake
Hi again Kim,
This year you have a new species for us, the Brown Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar, Cucullia convexipennis. Your photo shows it on one of its food plants, goldenrod. It also eats asters.
Letter 10 – Brown Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar
3 great iPhotos
Greetings – These were unidentified until my brother spotted your brown hooded owlet moth caterpillar picture of one that I believe is similar. These were eating purple asters in our yard in Eldorado, NM, just outside Santa Fe late August, 2005.
I thought these pictures were better than the ones you have, so here they are. Wouldn’t mind getting credit for the photos.
Your site is great, although it seems to be very slow to load certain screens on my dial-up connection.
Herkus Von Letkemann
Yes, this is a Brown Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar. We are posting it with your letter. Our site is currently experiencing technical difficulty which we hope to correct soon.
Letter 11 – Brown Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar
Brown Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar
Thank you for your site. I searched many sites for close to 3 hours, and came to the conclusion my caterpillar was a Brown Hooded Owlet, though the photos I saw didn’t quite match. Thanks to Tony in Colorado, now I’m sure. My son photographed this one, also on an Aster, in southeastern Utah near Canyonlands National Park on October 1, 2005.
Ruth in New Mexico
Hi Again Ruth,
There is some degree of individual variation in markings and coloration of the Brown Hooded Owlet Moth, Cucullia convexipennis. It surely is a strikingly colored caterpillar. We love that your image shows the flower of the host plant.
Letter 12 – Brown Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar
This caterpillar is 2-1/4″ long. Feeding on goldenrod.
Maryland (Washington DC suburbs)
Your Caterpillar is a Brown Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar, Cucullia convexipennis. The caterpillar is much more colorful than the relatively drab moth.
Letter 13 – Brown Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar
August 4, 2009
I am clueless on what this liittle fella might be. We found him on a weed down our driveway, we live in a wooded area in southeastern Virginia. Please help us, it is not eating and we are worried he wot make it.
south eastern virginia
Do not be so hard on yourself. You know it is a caterpillar and you know it is beautiful. Now you know it is a Brown Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar, Cucullia convexipennis, and you may see a matching image on BugGuide. Also according to BugGuide, they eat the flowers and leaves of goldenrod and aster.
Letter 14 – Bug of the Month September 2014: Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar
Subject: So unusual
Location: Central PA
August 30, 2014 11:04 am
I have never seen this before but such unusual color and pattern. Quite lovely.
Taken 8-29-14 in Central, PA not far from a lake in early afternoon.
It was about 3 inches long.
This is a Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar in the genus Cucullia, and after browsing through the species represented on BugGuide, we believe the closest match is to Cucullia omissa, which according to BugGuide goes by the common names Omitted Cucullia or Alberta Falconer.
This image from BugGuide depicts an individual with coloration that matches the Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillars in your image, though other examples indicate the coloration of the caterpillar may be variable. Another strong possibility is the Gray Hooded Owlet, Cucullia florea, and there are several images on BugGuide with a similar color pattern including this one from Maine and this one from New Hampshire.
It might even be a Goldenrod Hooded Owlet, Cucullia asteroides, based on the coloration of this individual from BugGuide. There are also some individuals pictured on BugGuide that look like your caterpillars that are not identified to the species level.
The genus as a whole is described on BugGuide as: “Adult: mostly drab gray moths with some fine black streaking; forewing long and narrow; tuft of hairs projecting from thorax forms a large pointed hood over the head, giving adults a streamlined “aerodynamic” appearance (a distinctive feature).
Larva: usually smooth (hairless) and very colorful, with mixed patterns of spots, stripes, and/or patches of mostly yellow, red, green, blue, and black – the range of variation between species is too complex to describe in general terms.”
BugGuide also notes: “larvae feed on flowers of composite plants (family Asteraceae) and leaves of several trees – varies according to species,” and the individuals in your images appear to be feeding on a plant in the Asteraceae family.
Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillars are among the most beautiful caterpillars we have represented on our site, and for that reason we have selected your submission as our Bug of the Month for September 2014.
Letter 15 – Correction: Curve-Lined Owlet Caterpillar
Sorry to keep bugging you. I really enjoy taking bug pictures. Here are some pictures of a caterpillar that I found today. What kind is it, please? Dallas, Georgia
You keep sending us great quality images of one interesting specimen after another. At first we thought this was one of the Prominent Moth Caterpillars in the family Notodontidae and then misidentified it as a Horned Spanworm, but Cameron set us straight by writing in:
“Unless it’s another name for the species I think your Horned Spanworm is actually the Curve-Lined Owlet. It only eats Geenbrier. Cameron” The Curve Lined Owlet, Phyprosopus callitrichoides, can also be seen on BugGuide.
Letter 16 – Curve Lined Owlet Caterpillar
Subject: what is this
Location: Jasper. Alabama 35501
October 16, 2012 12:08 pm
Can you tell me what type of bug this is
Signature: robin farley
At first we thought this was a Filament Bearer or Horned Spanworm, but we soon realized, upon viewing images on BugGuide, that your caterpillar is a Curve Lined Owlet Caterpillar, Phyprosopus callitrichoides, and that it is “uncommon.”
Letter 17 – Curve Lined Owlet Moth Caterpillar
ID larva on Smilax sp.
I found two of these on smilax sp. in the Ocala National Forest in Florida. Do you happen to know the name? Thank –you.
Park Ranger Lake County Parks and Trails
Tavares , FL
This is a Curve Lined Owlet Moth Caterpillar, Phyprosopus callitrichoides. There are numerous images on BugGuide.
Letter 18 – Curve Lined Owlet Caterpillar, NOT Filament Bearer
Subject: Caterpillars unknown?
Location: Florida central
May 8, 2016 8:52 pm
I’d love to find out what kind of beautiful butterfly or moth this is ? I have looked all over hope you can help!
This Inchworm or Spanworm in the family Geometridae is commonly called a Filament Bearer or Horned Spanworm, Nematocampa resistaria, because of the unusual protrusions on its body. Your individual has much more exaggerated markings than most of the individuals pictured on BugGuide.
According to BugGuide, the caterpillar is: “Strange! Eversible tentacles extend from the dorsal surface of A2 and A3. In the first photo (below, left) they are in the ‘relaxed’ condition; when the caterpillar is alarmed these tentacles can be extended to 2x their resting length. These same structures probably occur in other species in the genus; but otherwise I believe they may be unique.”
Correction: September 17, 2018
Thanks to a comment from John and Jana Balaban, we have updated this posting of a Curve Lined Owlet, Phyprosopus callitrichoides, which is profiled on BugGuide.
Letter 19 – Goldenrod Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar
This photo was taken mid-September 2007 in Lexington, KY. Subject was eating New England asters in my garden. I looked through all 14 pages of your caterpillar information and will guess it is some type of Sphinx Caterpillar. At first I thought tobacco/tomato worm (it is KY) but there are no diagonal stripes, the multiple length-wise lines have me stumped. Thank you,
When we first looked at your photo, we did not recognize the caterpillar, and we postponed responding until we had time to research.
Then, we needed to research the scientific name of a Brown Hooded Owlet, and the thought hit us that other than the coloration, your caterpillar resembled that of the Brown Hooded Owlet Moth.
Sure enough, there is a photo of a Goldenrod Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar, Cucullia asteroides, posted to BugGuide that is a dead ringer for your caterpillar. It feeds on goldenrod and asters, and the flowers in your photo are asters.
Letter 20 – Goldenrod Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar from Canada
Location: Welland ON Canada
September 21, 2014 9:04 am
The attached picture was taken in Welland Ontario on 18th September 2014.
The caterpillar was on New England Aster and was close to 50 mm long.
Signature: Rick Young
This is the caterpillar of a Hooded Owlet Moth in the genus Cucullia, and of the species represented on BugGuide, it most closely resembles the Goldenrod Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar, Cucullia asteroides. Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillars were selected as our Bug of the Month for September 2014.
Letter 21 – Hooded Owlet Caterpillar from South Africa
May 30, 2016 4:53 am
Halo bugman 🙂
I found 3 of these on a daisy type flower bush. sorry I’m a keen gardener but don’t remember the plant names. can you identify this and what kind of buuterfly does it become. is it a pest?
It was not until we searched through North American species of Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillars from the genus Cucullia on BugGuide that we realized you were writing from South Africa.
BugGuide describes the caterpillars as: “usually smooth (hairless) and very colorful, with mixed patterns of spots, stripes, and/or patches of mostly yellow, red, green, blue, and black – the range of variation between species is too complex to describe in general terms.”
We did find an excellent visual match to your Caterpillar on iSpot, but it is only identified to the genus level. Adult Moths from the genus Cucullia are generally drab and brown, and it seems the caterpillars are the beautiful stage of development.
Your submission will not go live to our site until mid-June while we are away from the office.
Thank you for your prompt reply. I just assumed it’s a South African website. Where are you guys situated?
I asked all of our nurseries in the area and nobody knew that such a beautiful caterpillar turns into such a dull moth. I relocated all of them into the fields close to my house. Now they can leave my flowers alone!!! I’m a very novice gardener and plants EVERYTHING that looks pretty.
I did not appreciate these guys ravishing a WHOLE bush in 3 days!!! So far it looks like only the earthworms are welcome in my garden.
Thanks again for the help!
Vriendelike groete / Kind regards
Our offices are in Los Angeles, but we are a global website.
Letter 22 – Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar
I have looked at all your caterpillar pages on your wonderful and informative site and have yet to come across this one, which I found early in July munching away on daisy fleabane at our cottage near Peterborough, Ontario. Do you have any idea what it is? Thank your your time.
This is one of the Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillars. The species is Cucullia speyeri which does feed on fleabane. We found a match on BugGuide.
Letter 23 – Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar
What’s this one?
Can you identify these caterpillars we recently found munching on an Aster plant?
We’re located in Santa Fe, NM.
Tom, Chad, Cole, Owen, and Ryan
Hi Tom, Chad, Cole, Owen, and Ryan,
Are you a Basketball Team? Your caterpillar is a Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar, most likely the Brown Hooded Owlet Moth, Cucullia convexipennis. According to BugGuide, the caterpillars feed on the leaves and flowers of asters and goldenrod.
BugGuide has not received any submissions of the Brown Hooded Owlet Moth from west of the Mississippi River, so perhaps this is another closely related species in the same genus.
Letter 24 – Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar
Please help ID this Caterpillar.
October 18, 2009
I am truly flummoxed about what this Caterpillar is, even after throughly Googling it, looking through my extensive “Caterpillar of N. America field guide, and posting pics of it to another site (Bugguide.net, where the closest ID was “Owlet Moth”…but none of the Owlet Caterpillars look like this). The plant it is on (and ingesting) is “Golden-Aster” (Heterotheca latifolia).
It has a series of color combinations and sizes(perhaps ‘instars’?), but all individuals of the largest size look like the pics I am attaching. Dozens showed up suddenly on the plants that grow in very sandy soil all around where I live. I have found them in other N. Texas (Dallas-Ft. Worth) areas. ID help would be appreciated.
Tzila “Z” Duenzl
Horseshoe Bend, Weatherford, Texas
This is an Owlet Moth Caterpillar, more specifically, a Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar in the genus Cucullia, probably the Brown Hooded Owlet, Cucullia convexipennis, which can be viewed in numerous photos on BugGuide. The food plant aster is corroborating evidence of the identification. Your photos are spectacular.
Ok…thanks Daniel. This was suggested on BugGuide (I submitted my pics for ID – look under “mtwoman”), but when I looked at the BugGuide guide pics of the Brown Hooded Owlet caterpillar, the coloring seemed different enough for me to question that ID.
Could the coloring be different (lighter and more orange/yellow than red) because of the instar/age of the caterpillar? Anyway thanks! And thanks for the compliment!! You can see more of my pics on BugGuide under user name “mtwoman” (for “Mountain Woman”).
Tzila “Z” Duenzl
Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillars are notoriously variable in coloration.
Letter 25 – Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar
Subject: Awesome Catepillar
Location: Columbia Basin Plateau in the Shrub Steppe Ecological site (sagebrush – bluebunch wheatgrass community
September 29, 2013 4:25 pm
I am hoping you can identify the black, white, and orange caterpillar shown in the attached photo. The photo was the best I could do with the little camera I had. the location is in Douglas County, North Central Washington State on Big Sagebrush/ Bluebunch Wheatgrass habitat type in the Columbia Basin.
This was taken in late August. We observed an Elegant Sheep Moth and thought perhaps it was a caterpillar for that species but from looking at photos of the Elegant Sheep Moth caterpillar it does not appear so.
I am hoping to get a nice SLR camera soon so will take better photos. Thanks to you all!
Signature: Randy Kelley
This is a Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar in the genus Cucullia. Based on your location and the markings on this caterpillar, we believe the likeliest candidate is Cucullia dorsalis, which according to BugGuide is found in the: “western Rocky Rountains and the Great Basin.”
Letter 26 – Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar
Subject: Unknown caterpillar
Geographic location of the bug: Roaring springs, TX
Time: 02:09 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I found this Caterpillar on a herping trip and have been having trouble identifying it. It was found in early morning around 8:45am on the 1st of June. Not sure what plant it was on though. Thanks!
How you want your letter signed: Lisa
This is one of the Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillars in the genus Cucullia. We believe we have correctly identified it as Cucullia laetifica, thanks to BugGuide images and data on the range which includes Texas.
Letter 27 – Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar: Camphorweed Cucullia
Subject: PA caterpillars
Location: Lancaster, PA
August 13, 2015 7:58 pm
Hi! I have never seen this caterpillar before and I’ve lived in Pennsylvania all my life. I couldn’t find a similar photo anywhere on the Internet. Hoping you can solve the mystery. Thanks!
This is a Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar in the genus Cucullia, and in our opinion, it closely resembles this Camphorweed Cucullia, Cucullia alfarata, pictured on BugGuide.
You are amazing! Many thanks. Interesting how very colorful caterpillars can become very dull looking months.
Keep up the great work!
Letter 28 – Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar we believe
Location: S. Illinois
September 20, 2011 5:26 pm
Found this unusual caterpillar on swamp rose mallow. Was about an inch and a half long, and while it had an inchworm like posture, it had 3 pair of prolegs (two pair? how do you count the big clampy ones in the back?).
I don’t think that it is pre-pupation coloration, because I found more than one and they were all black/orange/white.
I wasn’t able to identify it with a few searches, so if it is new to science, I would dub it the Halloween Skullapillar.
We haven’t time to research at the moment, but we believe this is a Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar in the genus Cucullia, and BugGuide has numerous photos.
Letter 29 – Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillars
help identifying a caterpillar
Location: Tse Bonito, NM 20 mi W of Gallup
August 24, 2010 8:47 pm
I’ve looked through several books and have searched every source I know of on the web. I hope you and staff can help me to identify this creature.
This is a beautiful caterpillar. We found a match for your caterpillar on BugGuide, but alas, it is an unidentified Hooded Owlet Moth caterpillar in the genus Cucullia, and it is also from New Mexico.
The caterpillars feed on plants in the aster family, and this is supported by evidence in your photographs. According to the genus information page on bugGuide:
“Larva: usually smooth (hairless) and very colorful, with mixed patterns of spots, stripes, and/or patches of mostly yellow, red, green, blue, and black – the range of variation between species is too complex to describe in general terms.“
Thank you so much for identifying the caterpillar for me. I looked on the BugGuide but I guess I’m not familiar with the search capabilities enough to find it.
Letter 30 – Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillars
Subject: Cucullia caterpillars?
Location: Idledale, Colorado
September 6, 2012 10:23 am
Greetings! One of our park visitors recently shared these photos with us, and asked for help identifying these caterpillars. These photos were taken at a park in the foothills of Colorado, along a riparian corridor. The caterpillars were 2 inches long, and all seemed to be on the purple asters.
After doing some research, I think I’ve narrowed it down to Cucullia… could you let me know if that’s correct, and also if you might have any additional information or even a species identification? Many thanks!
Signature: Amanda Peterson, Jefferson County Open Space
We are in perfect agreement with your identification of this very distinctive caterpillar. This is a Hooded Owlet Caterpillar in the genus Cucullia, and we believe the species is Cucullia dorsalis, based on the photos posted to BugGuide which lists the range as ” western Rocky Rountains and the Great Basin.”
Letter 31 – Owlet Moth from Trinidad and Tobago
Subject: help identifying moth
Location: Trinidad and Tobago (Caribbean)
August 16, 2015 12:55 pm
Hi bug man, I’d like some help identifying a moth that i’ve never seen before. I took this photo lastnight in Trinidad and tobago.
Signature: Prince Siu
Dear Prince Siu,
At first we thought this was a Geometer Moth in the family Geometridae, but the more we looked at it, the more we thought it might be in the family Erebidae because of its resemblance to a White Witch, the largest South American moth.
We are still leaning towards a Geometer Moth, but we have not been able to locate any matching images online. We will continue to research this and we will also enlist the assistance of our readership.
Update: August 17, 2015
Thanks to a comment from Cesar Crash indicating this looks like a member of the genus Letis, we searched and found a similar looking moth from Ecuador on FlickR, which is good enough for us to eliminate the family Geometridae.
Letter 32 – Newly emerged Cassiae Owlet
Subject: Opsiphanes cassiae
August 10, 2012 1:37 pm
Signature: Eduardo Lucof
Thank you for submitting your photograph of a newly emerged butterfly that you have identified as the Cassiae Owlet, Opsiphanes cassiae. According to the TrekNature website, it “Is an insect very nervous and difficult to photograph.” You are lucky you got the photo before this individual took its first flight.
Letter 33 – Owlet Moth Caterpillar: Armyworm? or Cutworm?
Mystery Lep on Eucomis flowering plant
This noctuid larva was on a Eucomis flower plant originating from a nursery in CA. A long trip to Michigan for a pillar. I was wondering if you or you viewers have ever seen this before. The caterpillar might be a species of Spodoptera. The attached photos were taken by James Zablotny. I’ve said it before and will keep saying it “Luv Your Site”. Thanks
We are inclined to agree that this might be some species of Owlet Moth Caterpillar in the family Noctuidae, possibly an Armyworm in the genus Spodotera. Another possibility is another group of Noctuids known as the Cutworms.
Letter 34 – Owlet Moth Caterpillar we believe
Subject: green caterpillar with beige stripes
Location: stanford dish loop, northern california
March 20, 2015 2:28 pm
I love your help IDing this beautiful caterpillar.
We believe this is a Cutworm or some other species of larval Owlet Moth from the family Noctuidae, which is a large and diverse family which is well represented on BugGuide. We will attempt to provide more specific information, but that is the best generality we can offer at this moment.
Dear Daniel –
Thanks so much for your rapid reply and for the useful links!
All the best, Bob
Letter 35 – Owlet Moth from Australia
erebus terminitincta – large Australian Owl Moth
A first for me today as this large Owl Moth was sheltering out of the rain under the roof of the walkway to my shed. I did a search of your site and didn’t find it so thought you may like to add it to the database. Taken Gold Coast, Queensland. 24th March 2008. regards,
Thanks so much for supplying our site with your photo of an Australian Owlet Moth. We found a GeoCities page devoted to Erebus terminitincta.
Letter 36 – Owlet Moth from Australia
Just did a search on your site but didn’t come up with any result for Grammodes ocellata so thought I would send through this pic. Looks a very cat like false face I feel. Taken today on my property, hope you like it.
Northern Burnett region, Queensland Australia.
Were it not for your numerous contributions, our Australian selections would be considerably less. Thanks for adding Grammodes ocellata, one of your lovely Owlet Moths, to our archives.
Letter 37 – Owlet Moth from Australia: Eporectis tephropis
Strike the pose, amazing moth.
Tue, Mar 17, 2009 at 6:42 PM
Found this stunning moth and was fortunate enough to have Donald Hobern, an entomologist from CSIRO provide the ID of Eporectis tephropis (Noctuidae: Catocalinae. I could imagine that if it wasn’t against the green surronds that it would look much like a dead leaf.
There are no images of this one on the web at the moment but will supply it to Australian Moths Online as well
As always, your images and contributions to our website are a treasure. We can only wonder when you will begin your own site. Thanks for this stunning Owlet Moth image.
Letter 38 – Owlet Moth from Guatemala
December 10, 2016 10:10 pm
Hi! My aunt found this little guy on her rose bush in her yard. We were curious to find out what type of moth it is. Thankyou!
Signature: To Emma
This is an Owlet Moth in the family Noctuidae, and we believe it is Lichnoptera decora, a species Julian Donahue graciously identified for us in the past. The species is also pictured on BugGuide. The image your aunt provided appears to illustrate a moth on a leaf that is curled around a cocoon.
We can think of two possible scenarios to explain the image. Perhaps the moth just emerged from the cocoon, or perhaps it is a male moth that has been attracted to the pheromones released by a female who is about to emerge from the cocoon. Are you able to elaborate on either of those suspicions?
Yes! My aunt found it as a caterpillar and watched it emerge out of the cocoon. Then she took a picture of the moth.
Letter 39 – Owlet Moth from Hawaii
Subject: Nice brown moth
Geographic location of the bug: Ha’iku, Maui, Hawaii
Time: 11:50 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Aloha, came across this lovely moth on 18 January 18, 12:30pm. It was about 2.5″ long or so. Forgot to measure it. This is a screened window under an awning, facing west, at a restaurant.
As we have critters here from all over the world, I thought you might have some idea where this one is from and what it is.
Many thanks for all you do.
How you want your letter signed: Eliza
We believe this is an Owlet Moth in the superfamily Noctuoidea, and our searching has produced one similar looking but different individual, the Forage Looper, on Insect Identification for the Casual Observer. We are posting your image and we will continue to research this. Perhaps one of our readers will have better luck than we have had.
Letter 40 – Owlet Moth: maybe Heliolonche pictipennis
Showy Desert Moth Takes a Siesta.
April 5, 2010
We were wandering through a carpet of yellow tackstem flowers. It was cold and windy when me wife looked down and spotted this moth hunkered down in one of the flowers. We were impressed with the sharp red lines on the wings and the crazy Afro harido…..It showed no signs of activity.
Hope you have more of a clue about this character then we did. I submitted this before but didn’t put in my name and the date; please use this submission
Richard Potashin, Independence, CA
Owens Valley, Eastern California, 4000′ ft.
We vowed we would not give up until we identified this moth, and we started going dizzy sorting through all the plates on the Moth Photographers Group website before we landed on an Owlet Moth plate where Heliolonche pictipennis looked like a good bet.
The images on BugGuide support that possibility. Schinia pulchripennis, also pictured on the Moth Photographers Group website also looks close, and that is substantiated on BugGuide, though BugGuide also has one image of Schinia sueta that is a very close match.
We really believe this takes more of an expert than our amateur status can provide, though we are confident that the Subfamily Heliothinae of the Owlet Moths which is well represented on BugGuide contains your individual. Our money would be on Heliolonche pictipennis.
Letter 41 – Owlet Moth: Psectrotarsia suavis
Subject: Pink and yellow moth
Geographic location of the bug: North Central NM
Time: 01:31 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi I found this moth and have not been able to identify it! It’s the end of summer which is our monsoon season and it was hanging out under our patio. It’s about the size of a nickel. It’s so cute!
How you want your letter signed: Acuriousmom
We have two individuals of this very pretty Owlet Moth, Psectrotarsia suavis, in our archive that are listed as Pink Spotted Flower Moths, but the only real references we are able to locate that uses that common name are on our site and on a link on a BugGuide page to the Primrose Moth, so we don’t believe the common name Pink Spotted Flower Moth is truly recognized since neither BugGuide nor the Moth Photographers Group uses that name, despite its appropriateness.
The only appropriate name for this beautiful moth would seem to be the more general family name Owlet Moth. Another curiosity is that BugGuide notes: “The larval host is unknown” so we don’t know what it eats.
Letter 42 – Owlet Moth from Thailand
Subject: Butterfly, Moth or Bug?
Location: Somdet, Thailand
September 27, 2014 2:34 am
Just got this from my wife. It looks like a moth with crying children on its wings then when it opens its wings it appears to have a yellow praying mantis on it.
Signature: Mat Coleman
Your insect is a moth, and we quickly identified it as Eudocima hypermnestra thanks to an image on FlickR. We located a second image on FlickR and then a posting on iNaturalist to verify the identification.
Letter 43 – Prominent Moth: White-Blotched Heterocampa
Subject: Moth ID needed
Geographic location of the bug: Rolla, Missouri
Time: 03:16 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: This little guy is about 1.25″ long for Head to Tail. Found in Rolla, Missouri. Can you help me ID him/her? thank you PS: I’m presuming it’s a moth just because of its looks.
How you want your letter signed: BugAppreciator
This is a Prominent Moth in the family Notodontidae, and we had imagined hours of fruitless research in determining its identity when we originally knew it was part of the enormous superfamily Noctuoidea, but we got lucky when we found the White-Blotched Heterocampa, Heterocampa umbrata, pictured on the Moth Photographers Group website. According to BugGuide: “The larvae feed on oaks (Quercus).”
Letter 44 – Probably Green Owlet Caterpillar
Who can it be now?
Location: meadow garden, Outer Banks, North Carolina
October 2, 2010 1:28 pm
Found this interesting caterpillar eating my goldenrod flowers, Solidago canadensis. Can you identify, please?
We believe this must be the highly variable Goldenrod Hooded Owlet Caterpillar, Cucullia asteroides, which we tentatively identified on BugGuide. Perhaps it is just the angle of view of your photograph, but the head on your caterpillar looks very small compared to the heads of the Hooded Owlet Caterpillars posted to BugGuide.
BugGuide has no images of caterpillars of the Goldenrod Hooded Owlet with such minimal markings, and the pink and green color reminds us of ice cream indicating that it must be edible. Perhaps David Gracer will provide a comment.
Also called The Asteroid, the Goldenrod Hooded Owlet Caterpillar just sent us off careening in another direction. We are going to have to contact Dr. Krupp from the Griffith Observatory to get his take on a Caterpillar named for an astronomical body.
We are going to pitch a book collaboration with Dr. Krupp, a book called Insects and other Heavenly Bodies, and Daniel hopes Dr. Krupp might consider the proposal. Daniel respects many people in the world, but few more than Dr. Krupp, the archeoastronomer who has been the Director of the Griffith Observatory since 1974 or 1796 or so.
He was the director during the 1990s when Lisa Anne Auerbach and Daniel were the photography staff at the Griffith Observatory and they self published
The Casual Observer, the legendary notorious zine that is only available in the collections of two museums, The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City and the venerable and wildly popular Griffith Observatory, arguably the most historic structure and publicly recognizable landmark in the entire city of Los Angeles.
The Griffith Observatory has appeared in numerous movies, including Rebel Without A Cause, Earth Girls are Easy, The End of Violence, Devil in a Blue Dress, and the not so authorized Flesh Gordon (Disclaimer: This is a PG rated movie trailer to an adult themed film with comedic artistic merit).
Letter 45 – Possibly Owlet Caterpillar from Mexico
Location: MEXICO, YUCATAN, Chichén Itzá
November 7, 2011 8:36 am
Hi bugman, a friend who is staying in the Yucatan, Mexico sent me a picture of a caterpillar he would like IDed for his weekly newsletter, I’ve searched everywhere I can think of for an ID, including your website, but haven’t been able to find not even a clue.
He says: ”It’s a hornworm but its horn is just a stub. I suspect it’s been bitten off by something and once was a regular hornworm horn.”
I hope you can help!
Thanks for any you help you can provide!
We disagree that this is a Hornworm. It looks to us like an Owlet Moth Caterpillar in the family Noctuidae and it has markings similar to species in the genus Cucullia known as the Hooded Owlet Moths, many of which are very brightly colored. See BugGuide for some North American examples.
Letter 46 – Owlet Moth
Subject: VI Mystery Moth
Location: Vancouver Island, British Columbia
June 29, 2012 6:48 pm
Dear ID Team,
I photographed this guy (gender evident from his feathery antennae) on June 27, 2012 in the Comox Valley. An unusual visitor, his delta shape and folded leaf appearance struck me as fascinating. I estimate his size to have been roughly 2cm in length from antennae tip to wing tip at rest.
We believe this might be a Snout Moth in the family Crambidae. We searched BugGuide with no luck at determining its identity, so we are posting this as unidentified in the hope that one of our readers will be able to supply us with a species name.
Karl provides an identification
Hi Daniel and Sandy:
I believe it is an Owlet Moth (family Noctuidae) in the genus Palthis, probably P. angulalis, the Dark-spotted Palthis. If you are looking for it on the Bugguide site, they have adopted a newer classification system which includes a major overhaul of the superfamily Noctuoidea.
In this system this moth is placed in the family Erebidae, subfamily Herminiinae, the Litter Moths. Most references suggest that the Dark-spotted Palthis is a moth of eastern North America but in Canada the range is given as Newfoundland to British Columbia.
The Bugguide provides at least one example from British Columbia. Regards. Karl
Letter 47 – Alfalfa Looper
Location: Bakersfield, Ca.
April 8, 2015 11:41 am
Hi, I live in Bakersfield, California. The Verbena is crazy this year (April 2015) and this moth along with a tons of Painted Lady Butterflies are having a ball. I had no idea how many species of moths there are so I am lost trying to ID this one. Can you????
Signature: Thanks, Mary Rosica.
We believe this is a Noctuoid Moth, probably an Owlet Moth in the family Noctuidae, but we haven’t a clue as to anything more specific. Perhaps one of our readers will be able to provide further information.
We are curious if this moth is strictly diurnal. See BugGuide if you want to browse through images of Owlet Moths.
Daniel, thanks for a direction to go! I will look for sure. They are very active and almost never stop beating their wings. Was hard to get a still shot with the wings open. Never seen so many and during the day as well. Obviously, my cat Ebby finds all the activity very fascinating.
Again, thank you!
Update: April 10, 2015
We just approved a comment from Ben indicating that this looks like an Alfalfa Looper, Autographa californica, and according to BugGuide: “adults are active day and night, and are attracted to light.”
Yes!!!! That’s it. Also looked for other pictures on the net under images and found him big as day. You folks are great!! Thank you so much.
Letter 48 – Parnassus Butterfly Caterpillar or Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar???
I have attached the larva of what I think is a Cucullia sp. I was able to find a reference on BugGuide.net but no specific species information. Thought you might be interested in adding this photo to your site.
If you can tell me what species this is that would be great. I found the larva in my yard on a dandelion but it didn’t appear to be feeding… just traveling by. Thanks for your help.
Prince Edward Island, Canada
If we had to venture a guess, and it is a guess, we would say Cucullia intermedia.
Update: (05/15/2007) Parnassian ID
Hello, First I want to tell you how much I Love your site! I can’t believe I have never stumbled upon it before now. I just wanted to let you know that the Caterpillar listed on page 4 that is Identified as Hooded Owlet Moth Caterpillar or Cucullia intermedia might actually be a Parnassian. (Clodius Parnassian) to be specific.
I had one myself a few years ago & can dig up some pics if you wish. It is a relation to the swallowtail family. Again, Great Site!! Keep up the amazing work!! Warmest Regards,
After looking at images of Parnassus caterpillars online, we believe you are correct with the genus at least.
December 18, 2008
I have an image of its earlier instar as well if you are interested. It is one those interesting caterpillars as the late instar is completely different. I also was not able to get an ID until the last instar & it seems none exist on any site I can find at the moment.
I also can not say Clodius for certain as the darned thing escaped just before pupating.. So no adult to compare.. I looked for it for months! I rear all caterpillars in the house so it could not have gotten far… Let me know if you would like the pics & size you prefer them sent. After I emailed you I viewed your site again.
(Again, Great work!!) I see that you have updated the ID in question. I also noted that you were unsure as to the correct ID I provided & followed the link you posted. I just wanted you to know that “Apollo” is an alternate name for Clodius.. Here are a few links.
This guy is a difficult ID & documentation on the life cycle is very sparse.
Hi again Misty,
We would love to get the early instar photos. Please send them with information on where you gathered them.
Update: Differing Opinion
Thu, Dec 18, 2008 at 8:57 PM
The original ID of Cucullia intermedia (2006/01/20/probably-parnassus-butterfly-caterpillar-not- hooded-owlet-moth-caterpillar/ ) is probably correct, although moth caterpillars are not my area of expertise.
In any case, these are not Parnassius larvae, which have fine black hairs (making them look somewhat velvety), all instars similar in appearance (black with rows of light spots), and feed on Sedum or Dicentra (not dill or parsley) locally. Please see this Parnassius smintheus from Idaho: http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/1050616448038400999jjFBOj .
North American Parnassian cats are rarely encountered, so a number of Internet photos are regrettably misidentified (such as http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/species?l=1346 ).
I hope the above information is helpful.
Letter 49 – Request for Owlet Moth images
Subject: which owlet moth species pollinate witch hazel?
March 18, 2015 8:30 am
In doing some research on witch hazel, I found that the pollinators are specie(s) of owlet moths. Dr Bernd Heinrich found that these moths were the pollinators and had the ability to thermo-regulate by shivering, enabling them to be active during the cold season when our native witch hazels bloom. I also read that these moths have a dense body pile, which insulates them.
What a great story this is! I wanted to include a picture of one of these moths in my article about witch hazel. Could you tell me which specie(s) of moth these might be? I am assuming Dr Heinrich did the research in Maine or somewhere in New England where he is based.
Also, would someone be willing to let me publish a/their picture of the moth in question for my article? (I would of course attribute the photographer and use a copyright symbol with it.) I write a monthly column on native plants for wildlife for my birding club, The Capital Area Audubon Society in Lansing, MI.
Thanks for any help, and for considering my photo request.
Co Editor, The Call Note
Signature: Ann Hancock
We are not certain which species of Owlet Moth pollinates Witch Hazel, but we will post your request and try to do some research. We have found a reference to Winter Moth on the Venerable Trees site.
Thank you so much. The whole Owlet Moth, and flying in the cold season is a gee-whiz story to me.
I appreciate your help and hope that someone will know the answer.
If we get a reply and/or a picture I will post an update in next month’s column.
Letter 50 – South African Owlet Moth
Thanks for such a wonderful site. I’ve never seen so many gorgeous moths in my entire life and wonder if you could identify this one for me, although I am in South Africa….. regard it as a challenge, if you have to, but I’m getting a bit obscessed with it.
Seems to have ‘cats eyes’ on its wings and a mouth! I let it outside once I’d taken some photos, so that the dogs wouldn’t get it. Would be much obliged if you know its name. Have a super day,
We are unable to provide you with an exact species, but we can tell you this is an Owlet Moth in the Family Noctuidae. If we did locate an exact species, it would probably only have a scientific name, but there might be a local common name.
Letter 51 – Arizona Owlet Moth Caterpillar: Basilodes chrysopis
Subject: Unidentified caterpillar
Geographic location of the bug: Sahuarita AZ
Time: 05:29 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: After searching I cannot identify this caterpillar. Would you be able to tell me what it is?
How you want your letter signed : Luanne
It also resembles but is not a Zebra Caterpillar. We will continue to attempt an identification and perhaps one of our readers will recognize this distinctive looking Caterpillar. Are you able to provide us with the name of the plant upon which it was found?
Hello Daniel, Thank you for your email! I’m not able to figure out what the plant is but I’ll attach a photo of it. Thanks again! Luanne
Update: September 1, 2021
Thanks to Ben who wrote a comment identifying Basilodes chrysopis. and providing a link to the Moth Photographers Group. According to BugGuide the moth is called the Guilded Seedcopper.
Letter 52 – Unknown Caterpillar on Juniper is Owlet Moth
Can’t find it!
Location: Ft. Hood, Texas
April 28, 2011 7:21 pm
Recently I stumbled upon this caterpillar, and I’ve searched all my caterpillar books and tried the internet in vain, I can’t seem to find it. Any idea what it might be? I have found two separate individuals, both were on Ashe Juniper. Thanks!
Nice to hear from you again. We have suddenly dropped below 50% with our identification success rate for your caterpillars. We had no luck identifying your caterpillar. We cannot even be certain if this is a butterfly caterpillar or a moth caterpillar, though we suspect it is a moth caterpillar.
We only spent 15 minutes researching the internet, and they were fruitless. We thought that this couldn’t possibly be that difficult because you were thoughtful enough to provide us with a food plant, and juniper does not seem to be the type of plant that would have countless species feeding upon it.
We thank you for providing both a dorsal view and a lateral view. Perhaps one of our readers will have better luck. We are still trying to respond to the numerous emails we received during Spring Break and the quantity of mail we receive each day is spiking with the warmer weather hitting the northern latitudes.
A reader comments
Unident green/white texan juniper caterpillar
Perhaps this is not the exact ID, but in perusing this link: http://www.silkmoths.bizland.com/txnorthcentralsphlarvae.htm about North Central Texas Sphingidae Larvae, I found this link: http://www.silkmoths.bizland.com/sdollii.htm which shows a juniper-eating instar of Doll’s Sphinx (Sphinx dollii) which sure looks close, except for the spike on one end. All of the instars of sphinx caterpillars don’t necessarily have a spike, do they?
Thanks for your comment. We also looked closely at the larva of the Doll’s Sphinx and dismissed it as not being the same species as the submitted unknown Caterpillar, however, we were also struck by the similarity in the markings. Some Sphinx Caterpillars do lose the caudal horn, though we do not believe the Doll’s Sphinx is one of them.
This might be an example of parallel evolution. On his Sphingidae of the Americas website, Bill Oehlke writes: “It is amazing to me how well the larval spiracular patches and false feet match the pattern and colour of the juniper bark.
I believe there is an active intelligence at work as opposed to a gradual evolution through ‘natural selection’.” More than one species may be taking advantage of this camouflage characteristic. We will try to write to Bill Oehlke to get his opinion on this matter.
Karl provides another identification
Hi Daniel and Writerwren:
This is an Owlet Moth (Noctuidae) in a group known as Pinions (genus Lithophane). There are quite a few species but there is one group (the L. gauspata group) of nine species with caterpillars that are all described as bright green with white spots and rows of irregular white blotches.
As well, they all feed on cedars, cypress or juniper. To me, this one looks most similar to L. lemmeri (Lemmer’s Pinion Moth), but the larvae eat cedars and the species is apparently limited to the east coast (although the Bugguide has tentatively identified entries from Arkansas and Oklahoma.
The next closest I could find was L. longior (Longior Pinion Moth) which does feed on juniper and is apparently widespread in the west. Information on the other species is hard to find. I think with this one I will have to stop at genus Regards. Karl
Thanks for your assistance Karl.
Dee provides another link
Hi again Daniel,
Thanks for the information on Sphingidae. Thought all involved might be interested to see this link (http://austinbug.com/noctuidae7.html) to “Valerie’s Austin Bug Collection” who identifies L. lemmeri as larvae who are known to feed on juniper.
The picture and reference are most of the way down the page near the bottom, next to the gold caterpillar. The short paragraph on L. lemmeri follows the paragraph on the Gold Moth. Looks like Karl hit it spot on.
Thanks for the link Dee. We generally throw up our hands when we receive an identification for most Noctuids and we just provide a general identification like “Owlet Moth” or “Cutworm” because so many species look so similar. It is great to have a website to use as reference for this large and confusing group of Moths.
Karl provides endangered species data
Hi Daniel: I found a few sites that suggested L. lemmeri presence in midwest or southwest states but I wasn’t quite convinced. The range for this species really is limited, at least officially, to the east coast from Canada to Florida, where it lives in cedar dominated swamps and forests.
The larval food is given as Atlantic white-cedar and Eastern red-cedar. Perhaps this habitat is in decline, because L. lemmeri appears on ‘species of concern’ lists for virtually every state from Maine to the Carolinas. Although it is certainly possible that L. lemmeri is present in Texas (perhaps it has been missed or is a recent arrival), but it seems more likely that it is some other similar, closely related species that does feed on juniper.
I can’t be sure, but I think the western L. lemmeri sightings may well be misidentifications. There are a lot of white on green Lithophane species, but I found the information on the internet to be too sparse to justify identification to species by an amateur like myself. K
Letter 53 – Unknown Moth from Cuba is Owlet Moth, NOT Tropical Ermine Moth
Alianthus… but not!
Location: Santiago de Cuba
September 28, 2010 3:03 am
Hi Bug People,
Congrats on your book! I’m trying to work out some way of getting it here in Israel (Amazon doesn’t ship here, and if they do, the shipping costs far more than the book).
Last July I went on a trip to Cuba, and at Santiago’s El Morro fortress I saw a myriad of moths of all shapes and sizes, from black witches to melonworm moths.
I managed to ID most of them, thanks to the wonderful WTB (thanks again!), but this one stumped me. Couldn’t find it on Bug Guide either. It looks just like an Alianthus, but the coloring is all wrong. Instead of the orange background, it has very dark red and blue. At a distance it looks black.
Any help would be greatly appreciated, the curiosity is driving me crazier than I already am!
I’m also curious about the congregation of moths in one place. Yes, the fortress is well lit, but so are a lot of other places. Many of the moths seemed to be old or dying and the birds were enjoying an all-you-can-eat buffet.
The old Spanish fortress is located just outside the city of Santiago de Cuba, at the mouth of the bay that is still used as the city’s port, at the south-eastern end of Cuba.
Signature: Ben from Israel
We agree that this does somewhat resemble the Ailanthus Webworm, meaning that it may be in the Tropical Ermine Moth subfamily Attevinae, but that is just a guess. We also had no luck in trying to identify this moth.
We will post your letter and photo and hope someone will be able to provide additional information or perhaps an identification. We also tried to scan the Moth Photographers Group website thinking that if if is found in Cuba, it may also be recorded in Florida, but that did not produce a match, though we only scratched the surface on the possibilities.
Regarding the book, it is also available through several other vendors and we are not certain if any of them ship to Israel. Check out our current links to the vendors carrying the book on our site.
Karl Identifies Owlet Moth
Hi Daniel and Ben:
This looks so similar to a Tropical Ermine Moth that it is a little difficult to switch focus, but it is actually an Owlet Moth (Noctuidae) in the subfamily Acontiinae. The genus is Cydosia, of which there are at least ten species but only three realistic possibilities (the rest are restricted to South America).
There is considerable variability in all three but to me it looks like C. nobilitella. It is also the only one I could confirm as resident in Cuba (ranges from southern United States to Argentina, and throughout the Antilles). The Bugguide also has several photos. Regards. Karl
Thanks so much Karl.
Ben writes Back
September 29, 2010
Sorry I didn’t provide more details.
The congregation of moths was all over the old Spanish fortress, on the walls, the ground, everywhere! Even inside open rooms. No trees anywhere near, and very little other vegetation.
I’m attaching a photo of what I believe is a white witch, and one of a section of wall about 1 sq meter, where I counted at least 10 moths.
Hi again Ben,
Now that you have sent a photo of the moth congregation, we have no theory and our original theory about sap or sweet sticky substances doesn’t seem correct. Perhaps one of our readers will have an opinion about this mystery.
Letter 54 – Owlet Moth from Costa Rica
Costa Rican Moth
January 27, 2010
We here at the Monteverde Butterfly Gardens in Costa Rica are big fans of yours, and we have found a moth that we cannot identify. The photo should be pretty descriptive, but basically it is wearing some stylish headgear that resembles a broken twig. Your help is much appreciated!
Monteverde Butterfly Gardens Staff
Monteverde, Costa Rica
Dear MBG Staff,
This is an Owlet Moth in the family Noctuidae, a very large family. There are several North American genera in the tribe Plusiini pictured on BugGuide that have a similar profile. Perhaps one of our readers will be able to be more specific in terms of a species or genus identification.
Karl does some research
Hi Daniel and MBG Staff:
This is indeed an Owlet Moth in the family Noctuidae, and I believe the subfamily is Euteliinae (sometimes included in Plusiinae or Nolinae). In the Euteliinae, the beautiful ‘broken-twig’ mimicry is achieved with cryptic coloration, a squat posture and a dramatically upturned abdomen.
As far as I can tell there are fewer than 20 species in 3 genera found in Costa Rica, but they are all similar and highly variable. I suspect the genus is either Paectes or Eutelia. The closest match I was able to find on the Area de Conservación Guanacaste (ACG) site was Paectes obrotunda, but this is really just a guess. MBG Staff, if you contacted Dan Janzen at ACG he could probably give you a precise identification. Regards.
Thanks so much for your timely reply and insight! I have seen Noctuids before with upturned abdomens, but never one this drastic or with this degree of mimicry.
I was actually convinced that it wasn`t his abdomen at all, but some weird ornamentation on top of the body, though when you look at it with this new perspective it makes sense. Thanks again, I will keep you updated if I find out anything more.
Keep up the awesome work!
Kyle and MBG staff. Karl
Letter 55 – Tiger Moth is Virbia aurantiaca
Subject : Small mystery moth
Geographic location of the bug: Norfolk County, Massachusetts
Time: 11:09 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi, I am an amateur hobbyist bug collector and found this tiny moth on my porch in August. I’ve been able to identify most of the bugs in my collection myself, but cannot for the life of me figure out what this one is! It’s very small, less than an inch across.
I found a second, similar moth the next day in the same location. Both were dead When I found them, tucked in a plant after a rainstorm, so are a bit ragged.
How you want your letter signed: Sam S.
We believe this is an Owlet Moth in the family Noctuidae, but we did not have any luck going through numerous plates on the Moth Photographers Group. We saw many similar looking Moths, but we could not locate a definitive match. Perhaps one of our readers will be able to provide an identification.
I was able to identify it through an app and think that it is Virbia aurantiaca, an orange virbia moth. Thanks for the help! Hopefully if anybody else finds one and is stumped, this can help!
Thanks for getting back to us Sam. If you are correct, and this BugGuide image looks correct, then this moth is down the Tiger Moth branch of the Noctuoid superfamily tree.